A quick five point plan to secure more referrals for your accountancy practice

So many accountants tell me that most of their new clients come from word of mouth and client referrals. In most cases however this seems to be a function of luck rather than planned in any way.
Have you ever thought about how you could make it easier for your contacts to know who would make a good referral for you? And to encourage such referrals rather than simply waiting and hoping they will make such referrals?
Here is a quick 5 point plan that could help you in this regard:
  1. Identify just ten people (your Target Ten) who might know people who could be ideal referrals for you.  Your Target Ten might include some good clients, lawyers, bankers or other professionals with whom you have worked and established a mutually trusting relationship.
  2. Clarify what you would want your Target Ten to say when they are making referrals to you.  You may intend to make different requests of each of your Target Ten. In each case, think about ONE person (or type of person) not a shopping list of possibilities.  You will invariably get more specific and valuable referrals if you are specific.
  3. Craft a couple of stories about similar clients you have helped and how they felt about your service etc. Your Target Ten will find it easier to recall your request if they can link this to a story. Use the RUBIK acronym to check whether your story/request is likely to help generate referrals.
  4. Talk with your Target Ten to find out what you could do to help them. Yes, that’s right. BEFORE you ask for referrals, ask what you can do to help and then do it! Many of the people you offer to help will then ask you what they could do to help you. That’s when you share the information you noted down at steps 2 and 3.
  5. Keep the promises you make to help your Target Ten. After all, if you don’t keep your promises you can hardly expect others to do so either.

I should add what may be surprising news for you. No one really cares what you do as an accountant. What they care about is what you can do for them or for the people they know. Most of us find it easier to remember stories rather than bare facts. Telling stories about our clients (whilst retaining their confidence of course) can make it a lot easier to secure more of the referrals you would like.

The alternative is that you continue to secure only the same old random referrals – some of which are time wasters and some of which are wholly unsuitable for the practice you are seeking to build.

Do let me know how you get on with your Target Ten and how many ideal referrals follow from you following this process.
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How to network without networking

During the course of my career I have attended hundreds of events where professionals and business people could network. More recently, since I went freelance in 2006, I have also attended many more generic and local business networking events. These are very different and are more likely to attract some inexperienced networkers whose prime objective is to promote and sell their service or product. Yuck!

I have also attended many other less obvious networking events such as:
– Receptions to launch a new product or service;
– Parties to celebrate a business anniversary, someone’s promotion or the fact that they have recently joined the organisation;
– Summer, Christmas or other seasonal excuses for a party.

In most cases the guest lists include dozens and sometimes hundreds of business associates, clients, prospective clients, other professionals and potential referrers.

All too often the organisers are not clear as to what they want to achieve by hosting the event.  The most common ‘reason’ seems to be either to ‘thank’ clients for their custom, to showcase new staff and services or merely to hope that by hosting such an event, more work and clients will, at some later stage, consequently be referred to the host organisation.

The professionals attending such events also often seem unclear as to their own objectives. Invariably there will be dozens of accountants, lawyers, bankers and others professionals present – all milling around chatting to people they already knew. There is also often a large sub-set of attendees who are evidently uncomfortable with the idea of talking to strangers. And I can always spot those who evidently promised to put in an appearance but leave early to go home or somewhere else they will feel more comfortable.

Many people who struggle with networking misunderstand what it’s really about. As a result they are uncomfortable talking to anyone new at networking events. This is such a shame and can lead to resentment, wasted time and wasted opportunities. At it’s simplest, networking simply means finding and getting to know other business people whom you could help and who could help you. This generally only happens after you have developed some rapport; hence the idea of getting to know, like and trust each other.

Over the years I have researched, collated and shared much information on the subject of networking. By all accounts it is something I do successfully. Even when I was in practice I regularly taught and mentored colleagues to help them and the firm to gain more benefit from their networking activities. Since 2006 this has also been a regular topic in my talks, blogs, articles and masterclasses.

Many authors and speakers on ‘Networking’ seem to focus on what to do at events that are publicised as being specifically arranged to permit small businesses to network with each other. My approach is more focused on helping acountants to network effectively in a business context.

If you would like to discuss how I could supercharge the networking abilities of your team, do get in touch.

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